It’s that magical time of the year again, where game developers from across the world flock to L.A to flaunt their stuff. Like a fashion show for games, this is E3 2019, and it started with a bang. Microsoft’s show was all about the games and being able to play whatever you want whenever you want. They drove that point home with the sheer number of new games they announced, as well as some other surprises.
Games And Star Power Take the Stage
This year, Microsoft sought to bring the most to the table, and they certainly did their best. Presented once again by Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, the presentation included a whopping 60 games, including 14 developed by Xbox game studios. Before Spencer even took the stage, Microsoft dropped trailers for Bleeding Edge (a 4v4 online combat game from Ninja Theory), Ori & The Will of The Wisps (launching Feb 11, 2020) and Minecraft Dungeons (4 player co-op , launching spring 2020).
Spencer opened the Xbox conference with an acknowledgement of how immense gaming has grown. “In under two decades, the number of players in the world has more than tripled. Over two billion of us now play games in every region and on every continent,” said Spencer. He then alluded to the apparent motto of this presentation; “any game, for anyone, anywhere.”
After leaving the stage, we got two new trailers, the first one being for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order from Respawn, creators of Apex Legends and Titanfall. It was immediately followed by a (personally long-awaited) trailer for Cyberpunk 2077, with a surprise cameo appearance from Keanu Reeves. After appearing in-game at the end of the trailer, Reeves stepped on stage to present the game’s release date of April 16, 2022. He also lead into one of the more wholesome moments of the conference.
The moment that spawned 1,000 memes
“The feeling of being there, of walking the streets of the future, is breathtaking,” says Reeves.
“You’re breathtaking,” calls a member of the crowd.
“No, you’re breathtaking,” Reeves calls back.
It was a small but spontaneous moment, but already other conferences are trying desperately hard to beat this in terms of hype and sheer viral marketing.
Like I said before, Microsoft rolled out a total of sixty games at this year’s conference. Since there’s not enough hours in the day to get to them all, here’s some highlights.
An interactive thriller about a man stuck in a time loop developed by Luis Antonio and published by Annapurna Interactive. Slated for release in 2020 for Xbox 1 and PC. It looks to be an intimate and intense game that's meant to get under your skin.
Dying Light 2
Sequel to 2015’s Dying Light, you play as a free-running survivor of a zombie epidemic. Developed and published by Techland, release is scheduled for Spring 2020.
One of the biggest new revelations was that the protagonist is infected himself, and will most likely be spending much of his time finding supplies to stave off his own end. That combined with sweeping visuals was meant to start us being excited for what might happen next spring.
Rumors about a collaboration between From Soft and George R.R. Martin are true! There isn’t any information about the game yet, but if you want to fawn over its trailer, you can watch it here.
The trailer about the game was wonderfully creepy and pretty, but does anyone have any idea what the game will actually be about?!
Phantasy Star Online 2
After years of only being available in Japan, Phantasy Star Online 2 is coming to the U.S next year. The popular MMORPG will be free-to-play in Spring 2020. Will it be able to capture western audiences?
The long awaited sequel to the series first entry in 2005, Psychonauts 2 is on the way. And with developer Doublefine having been purchased recently by Microsoft, there’s plenty of money and effort going into this title.
The Gears Of War franchise marches on with Gears 5, which launches Sep 10. You can check out its surreal trailer here, complete with a wonderfully creepy Billy Eilish remix. More information also dropped about new modes of gameplay involving escaping from a deep underground lab in a 3-player co-op mode.
Halo’s next grand leap is into the unknown as 343 studios spiritually reboots the series. Halo Infinite will be launching with Project Scarlett holiday season, 2020. While no real gameplay was shown off yet again, its obvious Microsoft is hoping lightning can strike twice with this venerable franchise, launching their next big project with a killer app again.
Stepping Into The Next Generation
We also got a look at Microsoft’s plans for their Xbox game pass service, and the massive expansions coming to it. To start, coming to xbox game pass are Batman: Arkham Knight, Metro Exodus, Hollow Knight and Borderlands: The Handsome Collection. However, there’s more to come with Xbox Game Pass for PC, a new service that gives players access to hundreds of curated games for $9.99 a month. Microsoft is also launching Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which entails Xbox Game Pass for console, Xbox Game Pass for PC and Xbox Live gold for $14.99 a month.
Of course, Microsoft saved their biggest announcement of the show for last. Project Scarlett, a brand new console that is “the most powerful and highest performing console we’ve ever designed,” according to Spencer. In a small trailer talking with the tech designers, it was obvious one of the key highlights they were going for was that the new system would boast a solid state drive to absolutely destroy loading times. Project Scarlett will be launching holiday season next year.
Again, many details were missing - the conference was a lot of hyping up how big 2020 was going to be for the company.
Look for more news about Project Scarlett in the coming months. While Sony isn't at this E3, we can be sure that the showdown over this console is just around the corner.
Scarlett, And Hints At The Future
That about does it for our coverage of Microsoft’s press conference at this year’s E3. While their showing was so large its impossible to cover properly in one article, it also ended up lacking substance to me. We saw plenty of great games, but none of them in action. There’s stuff to be excited for, but in the back of my head the skeptic and cynic are both screaming “Red Flag!” as sirens go off. In a lot of ways, the games we saw the most of are ones that were used as filler; Ori showcased phenomenal boss designs, but Microsoft was so determined to grab eyeballs with big names that it let these moments fall through the cracks.
That being said, Microsoft is expanding their view to the PC world, and that’s sure to cause some ripples. Xbox Game Pass for PC is a cheap service that offers up a growing bevy of titles, and as an alternative to other typical PC gaming platforms it has potential.
Of course there’s also Project Scarlett, a practically unknown console that may be the first step into the next generation. It promises insane power, with a processor made exclusively for it by AMD. There’s plenty of time until next year though, and plenty to find out before people have to start making choices. Here, at Sprites & Dice, we hope we'll be able to help you make informed decisions when the time finally comes.